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Blue Origin to bring thousands of space exploration jobs to Western Washington

Blue Origin - Kent

KENT, Wash. — Washington took center stage Wednesday morning for space exploration, as companies that make up the state’s aerospace industry gathered at Blue Origin headquarters in Kent for a “Space Summit.” The event saw NASA Administrator Bill Nelson make his first ever visit to Blue Origin.

Blue Origin has been selected to help develop a lunar lander for NASA’s upcoming moon missions. On Wednesday morning, the company was able to show off a replica of it’s New Shepard space capsule. The capsule has been featured in several launches that have sent people into space.

Blue Origin crew member Barrett Schlegelmich helps train astronauts before they head into space, and knows that the space race as a whole has helped boost job create in Western Washington.

“We have just about 5,000 people employed here in Washington working on all of these programs here at Blue Origin,” Schlegelmich told KIRO 7.

Space exploration will expand in the coming decades as we head back to the moon, and eventually, Mars. That could mean an expansion of the space industry here in Washington.

At the Space Summit trade show on Wednesday, dozens of people got an up close look at the future. Many took time to get into the New Shepard capsule replica that was shown by Blue Origin.

Schlegelmilch says work on the New Shepard capsule has helped the company’s efforts to build a reusable lunar lander that could soon be part of NASA’s missions to get back to the moon. That also potentially means more jobs and research in Kent and beyond.

Some members of the public were allowed in for the summit too. Jennifer and Lena Nichols from Kent actually were able to see a lot of the work being done at several companies. Jennifer Nichols says she teaches third grade and specializes on STEM, and that bringing her 12-year-old daughter Lena was one reason she wanted to attend the summit.

“Seeing that science and tech really is the future for our younger generation getting that exposure is super, super important,” she remarked.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell touts the fact that the space industry in Washington has doubled in size between 2018 and 2022, and now supports more than 13,000 jobs.

Lena Nichols has expressed interest in taking up a career in science, possibly in climate change or cancer research. She did see that there appears to be many jobs in space exploration, but she admits that taking inspiration from meeting Blue Origin mission personnel is enough for now.

“I loved meeting [Blue Origin Mission and Operations VP] Audrey Powers and being able to see women going into space,” she said.

Sen. Cantwell’s office says that as of May 2023, there were more than 1,000 open space industry jobs in the Seattle area. A release also says that Washington’s space industry has an economic impact of $4.6 billion annually.

NASA’s Artemis program features 42 suppliers in Washington state. In May 2023, NASA selected Blue Origin as the second builder of a human landing system for the Artemis program.